A Cougar’s Courage: The James Williams Story Part Two
PULLMAN, WA —
James Williams almost single handedly turned the Burbank Bulldogs' football program around his junior year.
But then, heartbreak struck during his senior season.
On September 5th, 2014, James Williams' college football dream, was torn apart.
Just two games into the 2014 high school season, James went down on the field with an injury.
"I thought I just hyperextended my knee. I thought I was just going to jog it off and be fine and play the rest of the game," he says.
He didn't return that game.
When James went to get an MRI the following week, the diagnosis was clear.
James had almost completely torn both his ACL and his MCL in his right knee.
His high school career was over.
And with two major torn knee ligaments James thought his college career had vanished as well.
"At that point I though oh my...how can this be happening to me. I thought I wasn't going to college at all," says Williams.
Schools had begun to surround him with recruitment letters, most notably USC, Oregon, California, Arizona, and Washington State.
James began to fall off the radar for many schools, including some who had made him official offers.
"When Cal and Arizona offered me. I didn't hear from Arizona... I probably talked to them once after I got an offer from them. And then Cal offered me and I only talked to them once probably every month."
But while most schools forgot about James, WSU running backs coach Jim Mastro kept in contact every day, even going to Los Angeles to visit James at school during lunch.
"Coach Mastro was just like 'Don't worry about it. We're just going to redshirt you. We're still going to be loyal to you like you've been loyal to us.’"
The recovery process took a year for James to be in full playing shape again.
And although he redshirted his first year at WSU, he burst onto the scene as a star last season.
He led the Cougars in rushing in 2016 over both Gerard Wicks and Jamaal Morrow.
And this year, he's expected to be a major part of both the Cougs ground and aerial attack.
And as for his goal as a Cougar?
Revenge on the schools that forgot about him, including one school in particular.
"My goal last year was to show schools you should have stuck by me, and this is what you've just lost out on. My goal was to rush for a hundred yards on everybody, especially Oregon."
James grew up in one of the most violent cities in the country, was homeless for a portion of his life growing up, and suffered a major knee injury that almost ended his career.
But looking back on everything that's happened to him, James appreciates everything he's been through.
"A lot of people don't realize how bad it is being homeless. And it is hard."
For what he's lived through, James wants to serve as a role model for kids in his girlfriend's class.
"She's got kids that are super scared to tell people they don't like their medicine, they're homeless, or they were homeless or whatever. They opened up to me because I relate to them."
She's a special education teacher at Camelot Elementary School in Lewiston.
"I tell them that you control your own destiny. If I just sat around and just let my life just fold and my parents weren't there for me, then I wouldn't be what I am right now."